The fuss about Google+ (for developers)

Considering you’re reading a blog, I’ll just go right ahead and assume you’ve heard of Google+ and all of its “facebook killer” gubbins. It seems, initially at least, that the service has hit the ground running and Google are already planning on increasing its presence across all its services, such as Google Mail. But what has the search-giant offered the developers, in order to create third-party apps and services?

So far, so little. Google have announced that there will be an API to interact with but the extent of how much is offered is still unclear. Developers are able to sign up here to get in on the action ahead of the general public. Interestingly, there have already been a few services built for Google+ that are making some noise.

One of these ideas is GPlus.to This is essentially as tinyurl-a-like which provides you the ability to shorten your long, number-heavy Google+ name to something shorter, sweeter and all around more tweetable. Whilst pretty interesting, the service is still not able to access any of the Google+ API features and as such cannot really be classed as a Google+ app.

But what happens when Google+ opens itself up to developers? Google are one of the strongest evangelists for HTML5 and will certainly provide a fantastic collection of methods (as they have for pretty much all their big APIs – maps, translation & search) to take advantage of the new features that HTML5 and the latest browsers provide – I’d expect to see a lot of <canvas> from this point on. There is also the rumour that Google+ will be built around the OpenSocial API which means developers familiar with this should be able to just jump straight in.

Does this mean that the majority of developers will start moving away from Facebook and toward Google? Not quite. Facebook has always had a pretty bad rep for their development tools – not least the documentation. However, this has long since been recognised by Facebook and there has been some, frankly, fantastic work done under the umbrella term “Operation Developer Love“. Facebook is still not without its faults but in comparison to it a few years back, it is a pretty nice platform to build for. As a developer of several Facebook apps myself, I’m hoping that the two different platforms will see eye-to-eye in terms of integration, so its not a case of build 2 apps for 2 platforms.

Where I feel that Google+ could blow Facebook out of the water is in its (already successful) mobile apps. The problem with the Facebook apps for the iPhone/iPad is that it is a very stripped down version of the web service. Any custom tabs or applications are just not accessible. Google+ could turn this on its head and provide developers with the opportunity to make apps for the mobile version of Google+. How Apple would react to apps within apps, I’m not so sure but I would imagine that anyone with an Android device would be just peachy.

I guess at this point, until Google announces more about its developer tools, it’s a “watch this space” kind of deal. But its a very interesting space to watch, one that could literally be worth billions.

 

Andy Girvan

Andy is a web and mobile developer who freelances for some of the worlds biggest companies on a variety of projects.

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